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Thai tourism needs to learn the lessons of the AIDS pandemic, says leading industry historian

Author: Theodore Koumelis / Date: Fri, 02/19/2021 - 07:08

Thai tourism has faced multiple local, regional and global crises ranging from the 1997 economic collapse to the 2004 tsunami.

Bangkok, Thailand  – As it starts preparing for a recovery in visitor arrivals, the Thai Travel and Tourism industry will need to learn both the short-and long-term lessons of the AIDS pandemic of the 1990s if it wishes to achieve a truly “New Normal” and “Build Back Better.”

“Thai tourism has faced multiple local, regional and global crises ranging from the 1997 economic collapse to the 2004 tsunami,” says Imtiaz Muqbil, the Asia-Pacific region’s leading travel & tourism journalist-cum-historian. “After each crisis, it bounces back resolutely. This is because it is very good at short-term recovery campaigns, but not very good at fixing the long-term structural problems.”

“However, the Covid-19 crisis is by far the worst in terms of duration and impact. The emerging New World Order will be a totally different operating environment. Thai tourism can lead the global recovery with an innovative and creative new roadmap, but only if it seriously and comprehensively learns the lessons of the AIDS pandemic,” Mr Muqbil says

“Not many know it today, but the first thing that the travel & tourism industry tried to do when the AIDS numbers began to grow was to sweep it under the carpet because they claimed it was impacting the country’s ‘image’.

“It was only when the industry realised that that head-in-the-sand response was doomed to fail that it began to shift its attitude,” says Mr Muqbil, who is also Executive Editor of Travel Impact Newswire, a tourism website devoted to providing alternative perspectives on industry trends.

“The AIDS pandemic is by far the most challenging story I covered in my 40-year career in Travel Journalism,” says Mr Muqbil. “It brought out the best and the worst in Thai society.  The growing number of cases would have killed off the entire industry, had it not been for the courage and commitment of a few individuals who were working to save Thailand as a whole, not just Thai tourism.

“Thailand's experience in curbing the AIDS pandemic is a story of courage and cooperation, controversies and conflicts. Today, sweeping such pandemics under the carpet is impossible, but many other underlying related problems are still being swept under the carpet.”

On March 5, 2021, Imtiaz Muqbil is organising a special lecture via Zoom to revisit the era of the AIDS pandemic. Click here for registration details.


Theodore Koumelis

Co-Founder & Managing Director

Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.